At the homepage of this blog there is a photograph. It is a solitary figure standing on a hill, a single star still visible above him. I’m sure you’ve all asked yourselves, “who is that and where was that taken?” Well if not, you have now.
To answer your question we have to go back to the mid 1980’s. I was in my early teens and discovering rock music. On the ABC every Saturday morning was a TV show and at the end of the show they would mostly play an Australian band playing live.
One morning I was watching and saw something that would forever change my life.
On stage in front of a pulsating crowd was a 5 piece band. The bass player was thumping away as he whirled around and sang backing vocals. One guitarist harnessed a beat up old guitar and attacked the strings with a ferocity I’d never seen before. The other guitarist basically stood still but played amazing lead lines. The drummer smashed the drums like they were a mortal enemy. The lead singer, a very tall bald bloke, sang with passion about our country and danced like his feet were on fire.
I was hooked. Midnight Oil were rock & roll for me. Any other band was measured against their standard and all fell short over the years.
I saw them live many times through the 80’s, 90’s and early noughties. Sadly in 2002, they split so that their lead singer, Peter Garrett could pursue a career in politics.
The other band members played in various other groups that I also got to see over the years. Then in 2017, Midnight Oil announced that they were getting back together and going on a world tour.
With a few great mates, we saw them play at the Domain in Sydney, the concert that was recorded and later released. It was amazing.
Then in 2019 they announced that they would headline the Big Red Bash, the most remote music festival in the world. Big Red is an enormous red sand dune about 30km west of Birdsville. To get there would take days of driving. Our family had a chat and decided we’d go. It meant loading up with camping gear, 150 litres of water storage, power supplies and food. An adventure called us to the desert.
After 4 days of driving, we passed through the tiny village of Windorah and stopped for fuel. We asked a local girl who worked at the service station where we might camp for the night. “Drive about 25km, when you see a big sand dune on the left of the road, camp in there,” was her advice.
Not sure if we’d been the subject of a practical joke, we drove out of town. As the sun was setting we kept an eye out for the sand dune. In the last hour of daylight, it came into view. We pulled off the road and drove around to the other side of the dune and found one of the best campsites we’ve ever stayed at. We put up the canvas and lit a fire.
Under the clear desert sky, we saw more stars than before. It was intoxicating.
After a good nights sleep, we woke just before sunrise. As I lit the stove to make tea, I looked up to the dune. There was the solitary figure of James welcoming the new day. The photo took itself.
The Big Red Bash was an amazing music festival.
Midnight Oil rocked. Sadly, it would be the last time that Bones Hillman would play live with the band. He passed away in November 2020.
Our pilgrimage to the desert was an amazing adventure for us. We have so many special memories. And one day, one day, maybe we’ll return to camp next to a sand dune on the side of the road 25km a west of Windorah.